Wisconsin has made off with a grand haul in the WCHA awards department so far with Sara Bauer (Player of the Year), Bobbi-Jo Slusar (Defensive Player of the Year), and Mark Johnson (Coach of the Year) all having been rewarded for leading the Badgers to their first-ever first-place finish. The WCHA Championship, however, remains unclaimed, and to get back to the finals, Wisconsin must dispatch a Cinderella in St. Cloud State. Just 3-10-1 in their first 14 games, the Huskies have won 15 of 22 outings and toppled No. 2 St. Lawrence, No. 6 Minnesota-Duluth (twice), and the Badgers during their run to the program’s first-ever WCHA semifinal.
Two things to focus on — Lauri St. Jacques and Wisconsin penalties.
St. Jacques has been brilliant during St. Cloud’s second-half surge — 81 saves on 83 shots in the sweep of Duluth, and a 36-save 1-0 shutout of Wisconsin in early February. She also had the Badgers down 1-0 after two periods of last year’s WCHA Quarterfinal, before becoming her own worst enemy with a giveaway that opened the door for a three-goal Wisconsin rally. Coach Jason Lesteberg admitted his team is probably going to get outshot. Even if a solid Husky defense can keep a fair amount of shots to the perimeter, St. Jacques will likely have to be at her stonewalling best to keep the Huskies’ NCAA Tournament dreams alive.
Wisconsin is the league’s least penalized team and owns the second-stingiest penalty kill in the WCHA when pressed into service. Both strengths will come in handy because St. Cloud State has quietly assembled the conference’s top power play with the veteran unit of Kristy Oonincx, Hailey Clarkson, Denelle Maguet, Ashley Stewart, and Brittney Kuyper owning 28 of the team’s 37 power-play goals. If the Badgers can keep the trips to the box to a minimum and simply roll their potent trio of scoring lines for prolonged stretches of the game, that depth could be key in wearing down St. Jacques and the Husky defense.
No. 10 St. Cloud State (18-17-1 overall, 13-14-1 WCHA)
Top Scorers: Kristy Oonincx, Sr., F (15-29-44), Hailey Clarkson, Jr., F (17-21-38), Denelle Maguet, Jr., F (14-18-32)
Top Goaltenders: Lauri St. Jacques, Jr. (12-12-1, 2.32, .921), Kendall Newall, So. (6-5-0, 2.53, .910)
Scoring Offense: 2.69 (13th)
Scoring Defense: 2.47 (18th)
Penalty Minutes: 11.7 (23rd)
Power Play: 37 of 175, 21.1% (4th)
Penalty Kill: 149 of 176, 84.7% (19th)
No. 3 Wisconsin (31-4-1 overall, 24-3-1 WCHA)
Top Scorers: Sara Bauer, Jr., F (21-27-48), Sharon Cole, Sr., F (15-22-37), Jinelle Zaugg, So., F (22-12-34)
Top Goaltenders: Meghan Horras, Sr. (15-2-1, 1.57, .925), Christine Dufour, Jr. (9-1-0, 1.10, .943), Jessie Vetter, Fr. (7-1-0, 1.08, .939)
Scoring Offense: 3.78 (3rd)
Scoring Defense: 1.36 (3rd)
Penalty Minutes: 9.6 (31st)
Power Play: 35 of 189, 18.5% (11th)
All-time: 23-4-0 Wisconsin
Last 5 meetings:
2/4/06: SCSU 1, UW 0
2/3/06: UW 3, SCSU 1
11/5/05: UW 3, SCSU 1
11/4/05: UW 5, SCSU 2
*3/4/05: UW 3, SCSU 1